The biopsychosocial approach is the main theoretical approach used by health psychologists. It combines the biological, psychological, and social influences on an individual’s health behaviors and overall health (Gurung, 2014). This approach is important to remember the World Health Organization defines health as complete well-being, not just the absence of disease.
Some of the factors that fall under Biological are:
- Physical Illness
- Genetic Vulnerability
- Immune Function
- Stress Reactivity
- Medication Effects
Some of the factors that fall under Psychological are:
- Learning & Memory
- Attitudes & Beliefs
- Coping Skills
- Past Trauma
Some of the factors that fall under Social are:
- Social Support
- Family Background
- Cultural Traditions
- Socioeconomic Status
There are several reasons why using the biopsychosocial approach is important today. The main causes of death have shifted from being infectious diseases to chronic diseases. Societal features such as SES and culture, are also becoming more pertinent. Medical costs continue to rise, and it is important that medical issues can be prevented and/or detected early (Gurung, 2014).
The biopsychosocial approach can be applied to understand a variety of health behaviors. For example, the biopsychosocial approach can be used to understand the health behavior of excessive drinking. A person may excessively drink because they have a genetic disposition for an addiction to alcohol (Biological). A person may be struggling with negative emotions and use alcohol as a coping mechanism (Psychological). A person may also be prone to drink excessively when they are with friends that also drink excessively (Social).
The Biopsychosocial approach can also be used in understanding what determines health behaviors (Gurung, 2014).
- Cognitive Biases
- Social Support
The Biopsychosocial approach can be applied to a variety of aspects of the world of psychology. It can specifically be applied to understanding overall health and health behaviors. It is a beneficial approach to us because it looks at all the possible biological, psychological, and social influences affecting overall health and health behaviors.
Gurung, R. A.R. (2014). Health Psychology: A Cultural Approach. (3rd Ed.) Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.